The Crusaders remain on track for another trophy after dispatching the Waratahs 54-28 in Wollongong on Saturday.
Their eight tries to three win never reached the lofty heights of their demolition job of the Reds in Brisbane last week, but they walked away with the all-important five points ahead of their Sunday morning flight home.
In fact, the Crusaders, forced into late changes when centre Braydon Ennor and lock Quinten Strange were ruled out, were rather scratchy in a game they copped three yellow cards.
Perese bulldozes Crusaders star
They even had to regather their composure with tighthead prop Oli Jager in the bin, after Waratahs wing Jack Maddocks and centre Izaia Perese scored tries within the space of a couple of minutes to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 33-23 after 54 minutes.
However, having been steam rolled by Perese a moment earlier, Crusaders centre Leicester Fainga’anuku quickly made amends by crashing over and getting them back on track.
Halfback Bryn Hall literally crawled over the line in the 64th minute to put the result beyond doubt, and condemn the Waratahs to a team-record extending 11th straight loss.
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No 8 Cullen Grace was again superb for the Crusaders, using his frame to flatten Waratahs ball carriers, and to get his side on the front foot.
The Crusaders practically refused to kick the ball away in favour of running it from anywhere and everywhere, which at time got them in a spot of bother.
In contrast, the Waratahs were all too happy to kick for goal in the first half, a puzzling approach against a team which was always going to stack up points.
That they did, with Will Jordan’s 75th minute try arguably the pick of the punch, after he gobbled up a Fergus Burke cross-field kick and danced over.
A strong case could also be made for the length of the field try captain Scott Barrett finished off to start the second half, or Codie Taylor’s belter on the half hour mark.
The Crusaders, who also had David Havili and Nathan Vella yellow carded late in the match, did take about half an hour to find their groove in windy Wollongong, where the Waratahs enjoyed a healthy breeze at their backs in the opening spell.
Uncharacteristic mistakes hindered them after halfback Mitchell Drummond’s early try, with a wonky Taylor lineout throw among their errors.
There was also a blooper by centre Fainga’anuku, who dropped a kick cold when there wasn’t a chaser in the vicinity.
Tighthead prop Michael Alaalatoa was pinged a couple of times by referee Graham Cooper for collapsing scrums, as the Waratahs dared to believe early.
It was head-scratching stuff for coach Scott Robertson in the coaching box, who must have wondered why his side opted to take a quick tap under the sticks a moment after the Waratahs had lock Jack Whetton yellow carded.
A scrum seemed like the logical decision, only for Codie Taylor to lose the ball a moment after taking a quick tap.
But the red and blacks did wake up on the back of Taylor’s ninth try of the year, a smooth 80-metre counter-attack sparked by Will Jordan.
Fainga’anuku and wing Manasa Mataele also played big hands in the sweeping movement, which was swifrtly followed up wing Sevu Reece’s 36th minute five-pointer.
A week after torching the Reds for 31 points in Brisbane, Richie Mo’unga executed a perfect restart with time almost up, before spotting a gap and helping setup midfielder Dallas McLeod’s try, the Crusaders’ fourth of the first spell.
Crusaders 54 (Mitchell Drummond, Codie Taylor, Sevu Reece, Dallas McLeod, Scott Barrett, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Bryn Hall, Will Jordan tries; Richie Mo’unga 7 con) Waratahs 28 (Jack Maddocks, Izaia Perese, Alex Newsome tries; Will Harrison 3 pen, 2 con). HT: 26-9